Harrison Park Is Officially a Columbus City Park

by Bob Mangia

“What was happening in Harrison Park the other day?”
What wasn’t happening?!

Thumbing their noses at the heat and humidity, residents and business owners from the Short North neighborhoods came out in record numbers on September 1 to celebrate the dedication of Harrison Park, the newest city park in Harrison West. The lively and diverse crowd enjoyed planned and unplanned activities, live music by The River Ratz, good conversation and great food provided by City Barbecue, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and of course, their own kitchens. Kids filled the playground, and volunteers from Upper Arlington High School painted faces and helped kids make their own bracelets. Amanda Schneider from Columbus MetroParks came out to talk with neighbors of all ages about the wildlife that lives along our stretch of the Olentangy River. She even brought a live turtle and a bat—two common denizens in these parts!

The celebration started at the gazebo, where Alan McKnight, director of the Recreation and Parks Department, served as master-of-ceremonies. Mayor Michael Coleman and Councilman Zachary Klein honored us with their thoughts on the park, including a moving remembrance by the mayor of Mary Funk, his assistant and a long-time Harrison West advocate and friend who passed away unexpectedly last November. Mark Waggenbrenner, president of Wagenbrenner Development, and Rob Harris, Harrison West Society President, briefly recounted the history of the site and the development of the park.  Each speaker commended the assembled neighbors for the effort, time and dedication they put forth to see Harrison Park completed; the park is a fantastic example of how the public and private sectors can work together to achieve something that benefits everyone.

The mayor concluded the speeches by dedicating the playground, which sits in the place of honor at the heart of the park, to Mary Funk. With Mary’s husband and family gathered, the neighborhood unveiled a plaque designating the playground as “Funk-ee-Town” and recalling Mary’s service to the neighborhood.  She always envisioned a place for all kids—young and old—to play side by side.  From the very start of planning on the park, she led the charge for the “tot lot” that now bears her name. After the conclusion of the formal ceremonies, Tom Bauer from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams passed out 150 individual servings to help beat the heat. As a wise person once said, “Life is short. Eat dessert first.”

Neighbors quickly queued up after their Jeni’s treats to sample the main dishes served up in the Harrison Park Condo Community Center. The food line snaked out the door, and some folks waited as long as 45 minutes to sample the fare: City Barbeque provided by Waggenbrenner Development and side dishes and desserts “pot-lucked” by the neighbors themselves. Hungry revelers sat inside and out visiting with each other and enjoying the barbecue and the wonderful home-cooked specialties including fresh tomato salad, guacamole and pasta salad to name just a few.  Zeno’s provided their tasty pizzas and Superior Beverage supplied drinks to quench our thirst.

Two tables of homemade cookies, cakes and pies competed for the title “Best Dessert 2011.” Neighbors voted Kathy Lyons’s cream cheese brownies their favorite of the night. The margarita cheesecake came in a close second. (We’re hoping to get both recipes and will post them as soon as we do.) Neighbors willing to brave the heat outside were treated to the music of the big band sound of The River Ratz.

Many thanks to all the people who worked so hard to make this celebration one of the best-attended events ever sponsored by the Harrison West Society.  Who knows? Maybe the neighborhood end-of-summer party will become an annual event.  The Society encourages you to get involved in your neighborhood.  Join the Society, come to meetings and events and volunteer your talents. Your reward will be meeting your neighbors and working side-by-side with them to keep Harrison West one of the best neighborhoods in the city to live, work and play!

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